How do solar heaters work for pools?

If you’re looking for a way to reduce your energy bills when it comes to heating your pool (or avoid it altogether!) then you’re at the right place! Solar pool heaters harness the heat of the sun to warm up and heat our pool water for free! And since the sun’s heat is something that we don’t seem to run out of here in Australia, it might be a good idea to give solar pool heating a serious consideration

What makes solar heaters tick?

To fully appreciate and understand how solar pool heaters work, we must first take a look at the key components of any solar heating system.

  • A solar collector - This is basically the area where water is being run through so that it will be heated by the sun’s rays.
  • A filter - if you already have a pool then you’ll probably already have a filter ready.
  • A pool pump - yep, you already have one of these as well.
  • Flow control valves - These can be fully automatic or these can be something as simple as a three-way valve used to divert water flow to and from your solar heating system.

Following the flow of water

A solar pool heater is basically the same as any pool heater in that they’re located at the tail end of your pool’s pumping and filtration system. The main difference is that the solar collector will be located where it is directly exposed to sunlight for as many hours in the day as possible. The water is going to get pumped through the solar collector before being routed back to the pool.

Automatic flow valves work by comparing the temperature of the water in the solar collector with the temperature of the water in the pool. If the pool water is cooler than that of the collector then the valve will automatically route the water through the collector to warm it up. Now you might be thinking why this is needed and why not just run the water through the collector at all times right?

The simple answer to that is there may be times (like during a dark day, or at night) where the water in the collector will be significantly cooler than the water in your pool, essentially cooling down your pool if you run water through it! Makes sense right?

A concrete example of this is if you have a pool cover and you’re leaving the pool pump running overnight to turn over the water or simply as part of your pool maintenance routine. It would defeat the purpose of your pool cover retaining the heat of your pool if the water was being routed through the cool or cold night air right?

Types of Solar Collectors

There are two types of solar collectors: Glazed and Unglazed. Unglazed solar collectors are basically just like rubber hoses that have UV inhibitors to protect them from damage from constant exposure to sunlight. They’re relatively inexpensive and they can be used to warm up the pool passively during summer months.

The other type is the glazed solar collectors. These are generally more expensive as they’re made with copper tubing on an aluminum plate with a tempered glass cover. This increases their heat gathering capability and they have been known to increase pool water temperature even in winter.

How much does it cost?

There’s no fixed cost for solar pool heaters as each system will be tailored to fit the size of the pool. A rough estimate for warming up an average-sized Australian pool will probably run you about $3000-$5000 dollars. While this may sound a bit on the expensive side, remember that solar pool heaters don’t cost a single cent to run! That’s free pool heating for the lifetime of your solar pool heater! And since they don’t have any moving parts, they last a looooooong time!

Ready to heat up your pool? Click here for a step-by-step guide on installing a pool heater.

Solar Pool Heaters are Zero-Maintenance!

As we mentioned before, since solar pool heaters have no moving parts, it follows that they would need zero maintenance as well! No more worrying about burnt out heating elements and other things that traditional pool heating solutions bring with them to the table. The only thing we have to worry about is actual physical damage from things hitting the actual solar collectors (like branches or other debris during storms) but those are few and far between and they’ll be there even if you don’t have a solar pool heater!

Bonus: Domestic Water Heating

With some clever valve work and plumbing work, the input and output of solar pool heaters can even be routed to heat and warm up your indoor water supply during the winter months if you’ve closed down your pool! All you need are a couple of manual valves in the right locations and you have free indoor water heating!

I already have a pool heater!

Is it still a good idea to have a solar pool heater installed even if you already have an existing pool heating system? If your budget allows for it, then yes, absolutely! Why? Having a solar pool heater that warms up your pool for free can drastically reduce the cost of running your existing pool heater! How? Essentially, with a solar pool heater, you’ll only be turning on your existing pool heater if the weather is absolutely freezing and you need that extra heating power to heat up your pool to a comfortable swimming temperature. If you pair it with an energy-efficient pool heat pump, like the ones from Madimack then you’ll spend virtually nothing when it comes to your pool heating bills! Sounds great right?

Variable Speed Pumps + Solar Pool Heaters = Profit!

To fully maximize the heating potential of solar pool heaters, it is best paired with a variable speed pump that can run for hours on end without breaking the bank! Not only will you get the benefit of constantly warming up your pool water, but you’ll be filtering your pool water consistently as well! Resulting in cleaner and clearer pool water!

Does all of this sound familiar? Well it should! We've covered it before with our DIY pool heating guide which you can check out here!


Do you have any questions about this topic or the featured products? No worries, we're here to help! Drop us a question down below and we'll get back to you ASAP.

Happy swimming :)

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